Yesterday the CPUC approved Broadband Associates’ funding for building a second fiber line from Redding to Eureka with plans to serve the communities along the 299 corridor.
The project generated some controversy whenÂ it was first made public. Some thought it a waste of money when lower cost technologies such as microwave and wi fi networks would be adequate. Others believe Broadband Associates incapable of carrying out the project. Still others have had problems with the funding process and even the concept of public/private partnerships.Â However, from what I could tell, the proposal has overwhelming support from business, government and technology industry leaders in the region.
It’s interesting to note that 5 projects were approved yesterday but the press release only talks about 2 of them, Broadband Associates’ being one. The funds awarded totalled $8,047,552 and the fiber project alone will get $7.8 million of that. So, this is by far the most ambitious project to come out of this round of funding. It’s also curious that the press release discussed servicing the towns along 299, but made no mention of the potential alternative to the current single fiber route owned by AT&T. While serving the rural areas is certainly important, the vitality of the region continues to hang by that single strand. I think most of us are equally eager to see this how this project will improve that situation.
The RTC luncheon on Monday was a great success. Erin Tracy from the Times-Standard did a good recap, and Ryan Burns from the Northcoast Journal has provided some nice personal details to fill out some of the atmospherics, including a little showdown between Mwichale Brinskele, CEO of Broadband Associates and Mike Ireton, owner of a wireless internet service provider (WISP) basee in Willits.
Neither reporter addressed a couple issues I’d like to bring up.
We had a good turn out that included the 2 newest members of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, Mark Lovelace and Clif Clendenen. What happened to the other 3? Broadband issues are vital to the regional economy and safety of the region. Are the other Supes not interested?
The financial viability of the Broadband Associates project has brought up, although not directly at the luncheon. One of the stumbling blocks for the much ballyhooed IP Networks fiber project that was supposed use the Highway 36 route has been the reluctance of major tenants such as Suddenlink, CENIC or even AT&T to sign on to use the line. So I asked Marie Bianco from Broadband Associates how dependent their plan is on getting thes major incumbent ISPs to commit to using their new line. She assured me that they have business cases that work with or without their commitment upfront. But it’s hard to imagine an $18 million fiber line being supported by a few hundred, or even a few thousand wireless subscribers. So, it seems that they must believe once they begin to complete sections of the line, once they start to light up fiber, these major players will be ready to sign up. But that’s a big gamble their investors have to be willing to take.
On the other hand, from what I hear the IP Networks line is still in the works. And there may be others trying to bring service to our area. If so, why? What is the true market value of broadband demand in our area?
I just hope one of them succeeds.